March 27, 2017 1247 GMT
During the 61st session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) meeting, UN Women and the International Labor Organization (ILO) launched the high-profile Equal Pay Platform of Champions to raise awareness on the persistent gender wage gap, Ipsnews reported.
The coalition consists of celebrities and activists including award-winning documentary filmmaker Kamala Lopez, Olympic gold medalist Abby Wambach, President of the Garment and Allied Workers Union Anannya Bhattacharjee, and actress Patricia Arquette.
“There has been a normalization for centuries of a bias against women, an acceptance that we are less than…there is no woman that [the wage gap] does not affect,” Lopez said as she moderated the launch.
UN Women’s Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka echoed similar sentiments, stating that such bias has led women’s work in a range of sectors to be undervalued.
“What does a woman in Wall Street have in common with a woman who has a shop in Brazil? Or in a cane farm in South Africa? Or in a sweatshop in Bangladesh? Chances are that they are all not paid equally by their different employers,“ said Mlambo-Ngcuka to delegates in the filled General Assembly Hall.
Globally, the gender pay gap is at approximately 23 percent as women make 77 cents for every dollar earned by men.
The figure is even higher in some regions and among certain communities. In the US, African American women earn only 60 cents, Native American women 59 cents and Hispanic women 55 cents for every $1 that white men earn. In Turkey, women earn up to 75 percent less than their male counterparts.
Retired US soccer player Abby Wambach shared her story and reasons for joining the Platform of Champions, stating: “I have two gold medals, I won a World Cup with my country…but I actually have to worry about paying my bills now.”
Before the enactment of Title IX, which guarantees that no person in the US can be discriminated on the basis of sex in education receiving federal funds, opportunities for women in sports were extremely limited as women received only two percent of academic athletic budgets. It has since increased to 40 percent due to the law, but its existence is now threatened by the new administration.
“I want to make sure that the world that I leave is better than the world that I found,” Wambach said in reference to raising her stepdaughter.
Garment and Allied Workers Union’s President Anannya Bhattacharjee shed light on the plight of garment workers around the world, including those in Asia who are responsible for the production of over 60 percent of the world’s garments.
Bangladesh alone, which is the world’s second largest textile industry, earns more than $25 billion a year from exports and employs over four million workers, the majority of whom are women.
“The workers of this industry who are mainly women cannot access their basic human rights…industries that are dominated by women tend to be lower paid, which means that millions of women and generations of families live in poverty,” said Bhattacharjee.
In December, protests erupted in the South Asian nation as garment workers took to the streets to demand a monthly minimum wage increase from $67 to $187. The call was dismissed, more than 1,500 workers were fired, and over 40 arrested.
Bhattacharjee highlighted the need for a living wage, and to recognize the additional unpaid labor that women often take up to care for their families.
International Labor Organization (ILO) estimates that it will take 70 years to close the gender wage gap at the current rate while the World Economic Forum warned that it could take 170 years for women and men to be paid the same for equal work due to reversed progress over the last few years.
Governments also joined in the call to action, including the government of Iceland who recently became the first country to require equal pay for all.